Most people think of charcoal as something you throw on the barbeque, but it has been used since Egyptian times for anything from purifying water to getting rid of bad smells. In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates treated his patients with charcoal and the Romans ground it up to clean their teeth.
Today, activated charcoal continues to be used in hospitals and water treatment plants. Its porous structure means it soaks up poisons and harmful chemicals. But in recent years, this ancient substance has been emerging as a hot new ingredient in the dental and beauty industry.
If you want to get veneers, normally the dentist first has to create a mould of your teeth. That mould is sent to a laboratory where a technician creates the veneer by hand. You then have to wait – often up to several weeks – before you can return to the clinic to have your veneers fitted. But advances in 3D printing technology mean that you could soon have your veneers created and fitted on the spot, and in less than an hour.
3D printing is revolutionising the health sector. It can now be used to create anything from hip replacements to prosthetics. However, the machine used to create veneers is not 3D printing in the conventional sense – which involves building an object layer by layer. Instead, the machine carves the veneers from a block, in a process more akin to computer-aided sculpture.
If your teeth are a little crooked or crowded, you might think it’s too late to do anything about it. After all, when we think of braces, we think of that awkward teenager, too self-conscious to smile and show a mouthful of metal. But increasingly, people of all ages are asking their dentists to fit braces – or aligners – to help them achieve that perfect smile. Some dentists report that 50% of the patients they fit braces on are adults, with 60, 70 and even 80 years olds coming in for treatment. And the good news is that you don’t have to look like the geek from an eighties movie to achieve the desired look.